If there is something that over the years Square Enix has absolutely nailed down, it's that they know how to put on a good show. They'll give you plenty of bright colors, lots of explosions, people pausing for dramatic effect, and wild character designs, and as of late, I feel like I'm getting the Michael Bay experience with their games. Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy 012 is the latest in their games that feels like there is something hollow about the experience of the game, and there are plenty of places where I can place the blame. Be it the hackneyed story, the frustrating gameplay, maybe it's just the wacky and pretentious sounding title? I can't fault Square Enix on their production values though, they have that stuff down in spades. Dissidia Duodecim is one of the best looking and sounding PSP games out there, the problem there is that that's pretty much all this game has to offer once you get a hang of the simplistic and ultimately boring gameplay.
Right off the bat, the story of Dissidia Duodecim is a nightmare to decipher, you've got characters from all walks of the Final Fantasy universe, called forth by both Chaos and Cosmos, deities that command discord and harmony. These chosen warriors must fight a never ending battle to maintain the balance between the two powers. What boggles my mind is, why do they have to suffer from amnesia? What point does this serve? And why does the winning side get to keep their memories of previous battles? Initially I was even more confused because people like Tidus and Cloud had jumped ship to join the side of Chaos, was there a draft at some point that had Chaos and Cosmos alternating between top picks? The main story of Dissidia Duodecim is focused around new members of the Cosmos team entering the fray and their constant battles against Manakins; dopplegangers who for some reason only attack the warriors of Cosmos. Kain (IV), Tifa (VII), Laguna (VIII), Yuna (X), Prishe (XI - unlockable), Vaan (XII), and Lightning (XIII) have the initial spotlight, and completing their campaign will unlock another storyline involving the original Dissidia cast. Each character has their own story within the Dissidia universe, from Yuna trying to save Tidus and Jecht to Lightning and her bad attitude conflicting with the other characters and trying to decipher what Kain and Cosmos are up to, and the returning cast has their own stories as well, which kind of felt like a retelling of the original Dissidia. Out of all the new characters it seems Kain has the most involved storyline, with some clandestine backstabbery afoot, which isn't a stretch considering who he is. Clearing the entirety of the story mode will take about fifty hours when all is said and done, which is actually kind of tough to swallow when it comes to the gameplay aspect.
Dissidia isn't something I would classify as a fighting game any more than I would something like Senko No Ronde, it feels more like an action brawler with RPG trappings, and really it's too much to bear. If Square Enix wanted to settle on a fighting game then the first thing the should do is make the game fully accessible from the get go. Instead you need to level up a character in order to unlock more moves to be used, which are definitely more useful than the stock base character move set. Combat is a weird beast to say the least. Your characters are constantly fighting for Bravery, and you increase your character's Bravery by landing attacks on your opponent. Once your Bravery reaches a certain point you can perform an HP attack which will actually harm your opponent. These HP attacks are some of the specialty moves that people are known for, like Kain's jump attacks or Cloud's limit break. Each character plays fairly different from each other, some like to get up in your face for attacks, like Tifa, or set traps for combos like the Emperor, or just want to run away and avoid being attacked like Terra or Kuja. This amount of character variety is nice, but the end goal is still the same, deal some damage for Bravery via the circle button, and then damage the HP with the square button. Now it's not quite that simple since there is a lot of moving around on the maps, with plenty of dashing and dodging taking place, which is ruined by an awful camera and lock on system that loves to get hung up on corners or in cramped areas will swing around wildly making tracking the battle and attacks an incredibly difficult affair.
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